It's the rejected film poster that everyone is suddenly seeing: recently a censored one sheet (see below) for the Hungarian release of Steve McQueen's uncompromising sexual addiction drama, Shame, has been bouncing around the internet. Reportedly prepared for the Hungarian distributor, Fox Searchlight, the poster starkly features the film's title written on bare female skin with what is meant to resemble semen. It is, depending on your viewpoint, either powerful or pornographic, with the only thing for certain being the potential for puns.
With Shame, which stars Michael Fassbender (pictured) and Carey Mulligan, opening in Australia on Thursday 9 February, we asked Andrew Mackie, joint managing director of the movie's Australian distributor, Transmission Films, about the process of local distributors creating their own promotional materials such as posters.
“As an indie distributor you can come up with any poster you want,” he explains. “Normal procedure is that you get it approved by the producers before you print it, and most contracts insist on that and we'd do it as a matter of course.”
While Transmission have not been able to trailer Shame in Australian cinemas – R-rated pictures can only have their trailers attached to other R-rated releases, and there's none in the market currently – they could feasibly issue a similar one sheet here as posters are not subject to official classification. That said, Mackie adds, there would not only be resistance from cinemas, “it's also a question of whether it's in good taste and fits the campaign we're building.”
Mackie says that Australian distributors, especially those handling independent releases or titles that have not yet released in the United States or United Kingdom, often generate their own posters and trailers. Images that work in Europe, for example, often aren't that effective in Australia.
“It's a shame we don't have a specific award for move posters in Australia, because the independents here generate some amazing campaigns,” he says. “Our Sleeping Beauty poster and trailer went worldwide.”
The distribution executive – who is a confirmed fan of the remarkable Polish film posters from the 1980s that are now also collected online – has commissioned local poster designs for everything from Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries to John Michael McDonagh's recent black crime comedy, The Guard, but the only outcome that's certain is that not everyone will agree.
“We did a distinctive poster for Antichrist in this market, from Jeremy Saunders, and I heard that [star] Willem Dafoe hated our poster, but [director] Lars von Trier loved it,” Mackie recalls. “You really can't please everyone all the time.”